Monday, January 30, 2023

Blue Zones Challenge: Soups, Stews, and More

I'm nearing the end of my 30-day Blue Zones Challenge, and honestly, it hasn't been challenging at all. Well, it has. But that wasn't the challenge's fault. The hard part was getting sick about a week ago — the flu, I think — and having to cancel all of the fun social plans as I'd made as part of the challenge.

The Blue Zones program is about more than food. It requires you to spend time with people in real life, but you can't do that when you're sick. So I canceled a wine night, a drop-in plan at a friend's open studio, and a 5K trail race last week. Bummer. But I'm hoping to make up some of those plans soon!

As for the food though, that's been easy. Granted, I haven't been able to taste much of anything for the past few days because my nose is stopped up, but I just ate anyway and pretended I could taste. This Black Bean & Potato Soup from the Nicoyan Blue Zone was awesome. It has chayote squash, which I'd never cooked with, plus potatoes and carrots. Perfect with a corn tortilla.

Paul and I both loved the Lasagna Soup from the Adventist Blue Zone. This has lentils, tomatoes, red wine, and brown rice lasagna noodles. I loved the big chunks of pasta. I topped mine with a little cashew cream.

On Friday night, I made the Tomato Orzo Soup from the Ikarian Blue Zone, but the whole wheat orzo absorbed all of the liquid so it was more of a pasta dish and less of a soup. I made this because my long run was scheduled for Saturday, and I always eat pasta the night before. But of course, I couldn't run while sick, so we just ate pasta for nothing. Not that you need a reason to eat pasta. It just feels like a performance food.

I loved the Longevity Dal Palak from the Blue Zones Challenge book. This was one that didn't come from a specific Blue Zone but rather was one of author Dan Buettner's recipes. You know Indian food is my favorite!

And finally, last night, I made a big batch of Slow Cooker Beans with Quick Cornbread from the Adventist Blue Zone. Soup beans and cornbread are one of life's greatest pleasures. This will be even better when I can taste it. My tastebuds are kinda coming back today, but they're not there 100% yet. 

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Blue Zones Challenge: Adventist Meals

As I'm working my through the 30-day Blue Zones Challenge, I've been trying recipes from all five Blue Zones (Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California). And I've loved everything I've tried. But the recipes that are closest to my heart are those from the Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda. That's because they're more familiar, I guess. And it's 100% old-school hippie vegan food, which isn't far off from how I eat typically. 

Here are a few of the Adventist meals I've made from the Blue Zones Kitchen. One was Adventist Haystacks, which let's be real, are nachos. Or you could call this taco salad if you wanted to make it sound healthier. But it's corn chips topped with lots of veggies, beans, and cashew cheese, so I call that nachos. This was also the only Blue Zones recipe I've made so far that called for a little optional vegan ground burger. I used some Beyond burger, and this was a very tasty dinner!

I also loved this Hearty Kale and Barley Bowl. This is your standard grain/green/bean bowl with barley, kale, carrots, and white beans, and it has a vinaigrette dressing. Seems pretty normal, right? But then it's topped with pickles, kalamata olives, and dates! Yes, pickles and dates in the same dish. Super weird but I had to try it. And you know what? It was delicious. Salty, sweet, tangy, all the good flavors. 

Here's an Adventist Granola that I've been enjoying for breakfasts this week. It's a simple homemade granola with oats, maple, pecans, almonds, walnuts, dried apricots, dried cranberries, and raisins. And I made some unsweetened soy yogurt (in my Instant Pot) to eat with it. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Blue Zones Challenge: Okinawa

I'm almost done with my 30-day Blue Zones Challenge, though I plan to continue practicing Blue Zones principles going forward. And I'll probably continue trying a lot of recipes from Dan Buettner's books. They're just so good! And simple! 

There are five Blue Zones in the world, where people live the longest, and one of those is Okinawa. The Blue Zones Kitchen book is divided by region, and here are a few meals I've made from the Okinawan chapter. One of my favorites was this Tofu Steak with Miso Mushrooms and Mashed Purple Sweet Potatoes.

So you may notice that those potatoes are not purple. They were purple-skinned but white inside. The recipe called for the ones that are purple on the inside (they have higher antioxidants), but I grabbed the wrong ones from the Asian market. Still yet, they have a similar starchy texture and taste to the purple ones. These are mashed with coconut milk (from the can), and they were heavenly. As for the steak, these tofu slabs were topped with tangy, salty shiitakes and leeks. This made for a fancy (but fast) weeknight dinner.

I also loved the Three-Minute Okinawan Somen Noodles. This took no time to make (though maybe more like 10 minutes instead of three). The recipe just calls for noodles, spices, and tofu, but I added some sauteed cabbage to get more veggies in. Paul loved this dish too!

And this is the Veggie Champuru with tofu, broccoli, mung sprouts, and carrots over brown rice. Champuru just means stir-fry, so that's what this is. Simple, quick, wholesome.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Blue Zones Challenge: Eating Out

I started the Blue Zones Challenge on January 1, using Dan Buettner's book of the same name. The challenge extends beyond the plate to include social interactions, movement, and stress reduction. But I'm focusing on the food in my posts. Most of my meals have been from the challenge book or from The Blue Zones Kitchen cookbook, and they're very heavy on whole foods. But of course, I have to eat out sometimes. So here are a few meals I've eaten from restaurants during the challenge.

I love to stop by Raw Girls on my way to the office when I actually go in (I work from home several days a week). And their Mung Bean Noodle Bowl is one of my faves. The winter version of this has butternut squash, pom seeds, pecans, and pesto, and it's awesome.

They also have hot soups in the winter, so one day, I grabbed some Curry Dal Soup with an order of their raw Flax Crackers.

A couple Fridays ago, my friend Shara had her 40th birthday. And she's doing Dry January, so she wanted to do something that didn't involve booze. After brainstorming for a while, we all decided that it would be fun to go to the Wolfchase Mall and walk around like teenagers. So we did! And of course, that meant dinner was in the food court. Lucky me, they have a Chipotle, so I got a Tofu Sofritas Bowl. This was two meals for me. One of the Blue Zones concepts involves stopping eating when you feel full, so I tried to practice this here (and it worked!). By the way, the mall lighting was terrible.

And finally, Paul and I went to dinner at RP Tracks after a 3K race a couple Sundays ago. And I opted for the Vegetarian Club Sandwich (tofu, vegan tomato aioli, coconut bacon) and Sweet Potato Fries. By the way, if you're local and order that sandwich, be sure to them to swap the bread. It comes on honey-wheat, which is the only thing that makes it not vegan. I like to sub on the rye.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Blue Zones Challenge: Breakfasts and Soup

Checking in again on my 19th day of the Blue Zones Challenge. You can read all about my January reset goals here. And here are a few yummy recipes I've made from the Blue Zones books.

For breakfast last week, I made a batch of Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies. These were a 7th Day Adventist recipe, and they're super quick and great on the go. Basically, it's just oats, mashed banana, applesauce, chocolate chips, nuts, and vegan honey. Some of the recipes call for honey, so I've been subbing Single Origin Vegan Un-Honey.

I also made the Pumpkin Pancakes from the Blue Zones Challenge. These were just okay, but that's my fault. I added protein powder to the oat flour pancakes, and the texture was off a bit. But it's because of the protein powder, I'm sure! They tasted good though. I had some vegan sausage on the side because pancakes without sausage is just sad.

It's been pretty chilly here with temps in the 30s and 40s some days, so I made this Potato Leek Soup from the Blue Zones Challenge to keep us warm. This was a hit with Paul, which is great! He's been trying to get healthier, but he's so picky. So it's nice when he actually likes something made with vegetables.

And finally, here's my favorite recipe on the plan so far! The Ikarian Longevity Stew is from the Ikrarian Blue Zone, and it's fantastic. It has blackeyed peas, fennel, tomato, and lots of fresh dill and olive oil. Paul and I both loved this one, and I was sad when it was gone. This will become a staple in our house for sure.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Blue Zones Challenge!

We're mid-way through January now, and I'm just now getting around to telling y'all about my annual January challenge. Every year, I pick a different reset plan. And this year, I'm doing the Blue Zones Challenge. I've long been a fan of Dan Buettner's Blue Zones work, and I finally got the challenge workbook a few weeks ago.

If you're not familiar, the Blue Zones are five regions around the world with the highest number of people over 100. And since I'm trying to live to 100, I figured I should learn their secrets. Turns out they're not that far enough from how I live anyway. Dan identified nine principles these people live by: 1) eat a plant-based diet (check!), 2) move naturally (check! Though I also move unnaturally with my marathon running), 3) reduce stress (check! I've got a daily yoga and meditation practice), 4) drink wine at 5 (yes, please), 5) spend time with community (I could be better), 6) focus on family (also, could be better, but I'm trying to call my parents weekly), 7) have a spiritual practice (check! Even if it's a non-conventional one!), 8) don't overeat (definitely could be better), and 9) know your purpose (check!).

The Blue Zones Challenge book gives you weekly activities to work through these concepts, and there are a few recipes. I'm also using recipes from Dan's beautiful hardcover Blue Zones Kitchen Cookbook. Here are a few things I've made lately.

This was the Gallo Pinto from the Costa Rican Blue Zone with black beans, white rice, avocado, cilantro, and mango. So easy and delicious!

This was the Miso Soup from the Okinawan Blue Zone. This was a both a hearty breakfast and a nice, quick lunch.

And here's some Spaghetti with Walnut Pesto from the Sardinian Blue Zone. Some of the Blue Zones use a ton of olive oil, and this recipe definitely did. I used to do the whole oil-free thing, but I'm now of the belief that olive oil is good for you. And while I'm training for a 50-miler, those extra calories are much needed. Served with my homemade sourdough. The Blues Zones are all about sourdough!

I've got lots more to share over the coming days! So much good food on this plan. 

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Belated Christmas at Native Brew Works

Last Christmas post, I swear. All of my Christmas plans were canceled due to a crazy winter storm that swept through the Mid-South and left our streets too icy for travel. So I had a makeup Christmas with my parents on New Years Day. And last weekend, I finally got to meet up with Sheridan and Drew. They live in Little Rock, and I'm in Memphis. So we met in the middle in our hometown of Jonesboro at Native Brew Works.

We love this brewery! The beer is fantastic, and they have vegan options. So we try to meet there whenever we can. We all ordered the Roasted Sweet Potato Tacos with avocado crema. I got one on a corn tortilla and another on flour. 

And we split an order of Chips and Salsa.

I also got a side of Black Beans with Pico. I ran that morning and was super-hungry.

As for a beer, I ordered the Haulin' Oats Oatmeal Stout, which has to be the best beer name ever!! I love a pun. The beer was super-tasty, too.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Lulu's Sneak Peek, Surprise Salad, and Breakfast!

My friends who run the Memphis vegan bakery Lulu's are opening a brick-and-mortar! Previously, they sold at the Cooper-Young Farmers Market, but later this month, they'll have their very own place again. I say again because they briefly had a stall inside Puck Food Hall. But Puck closed, so they had to close. But this new place will be all their own. They had a super-soft test run a couple weeks back, so I stopped in for a Breakfast Sando on a sourdough bagel (tofu egg, cashew cheese, and smoked carrot bacon). I can't wait to be able to order these whenever I want!

Over the New Year's weekend, Paul was having gut issues and in the hospital. Bummer, but he's okay now. While we were there though, I went down to the cafe to grab him a drink, and I noticed this Plant-Based Chorizo Salad. It had feta, but the ingredients were all in separate compartments, so it was easy to toss that out.

The chorizo was made from seasoned black beans, and there were roasted sweet potatoes and beets, pumpkin seeds, and a maple dressing. It was so good! Super impressed that the hospital had a healthy option. They also had packaged vegan hummus wraps.

And finally, here's a breakfast made from leftovers. My mom made our Christmas breakfast on New Year's since we had to skip Christmas due to the weather. And she sent me home with leftover biscuits, gravy, sausage, and a half a bottle of Just Egg. I figured I needed something green too, so I sauteed some cabbage. 

Monday, January 9, 2023

Cheesesteak Fries, Pan con Tomate, & N/A Beer

My favorite vegan food truck, Da Guilty Vegan, typically sets up shop in Cordova, a neighborhood about 20 minutes from my house. So I rarely get there. But one day recently, chef Derek took his truck to Crosstown Brewing Co., which is in my neighborhood. So I had to go! I got his Philly Cheesesteak Fries, and WOWSERS! These were so damn good. They were topped with Beyond burger, vegan cheese, bell peppers, and onions. I ate every bite, and though I was super-full, I was sad they were gone.

Here's a recent Tofu & Broccoli Stir-fry that looks very much like the one from Thursday's post. But this one has added mung bean sprouts that were leftover from our Christmas Eve pho. Tofu and broccoli is kind of my go-to stir-fry combo. The tofu in this was my favorite super-firm tofu from my neighborhood Asian market.

One morning a few weeks back, I made Pan con Tomate (that's Spanish tomato bread) for breakfast. The simple recipe is from the No Meat Athlete Cookbook, and it's just homemade sourdough, tomato, garlic, and nooch. But rather than added the chopped ingredients, you smear the garlic and tomato over the bread so the bread kind of grates the veggies. Makes a great breakfast, but it's also perfect with red wine as a happy hour snack.

Speaking of booze, I'm doing a bit of a Damp January. Definitely not giving up alcohol. In fact, I'm drinking red wine several days a week for health reasons (but more on that in a few days when I catch y'all up with my Blue Zones challenge). But I am consciously trying to drink less, so I ordered about 30 low-proof beers from Athletic Brewing Co. to enjoy in between drinking days. Each has about a half percent alcohol. They're great as a substitute on nights I don't want to drink at all, and they're also great when I've already had one or two drinks and want more (but shouldn't). 

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Pancakes & Sausage on a Stick! Plus, Stir-fry and a Xmas Treat

So we're solidly in January now, and I'm behind in posting my meals. Almost every January, I do some kind reset/cleanse/healthy eating thing, and this year, I'm doing the Blue Zones Challenge. I'll blog more about that soon, but for the next few posts, I'll catch up on some old food.

I recently found Morningstar's Incogmeato Pancakes and Sausage on a Stick, so of course I had to buy them. 

Imagine if a corn dog was wrapped in a pancake. And that hot dog was actually a sausage. That's what this is. The pancake gets nice and crispy in the air fryer, and it's even better dipped in extra maple.

Here's a recent very simple Tofu & Broccoli Stir-fry that I made a few weeks back. I had some daikon in my CSA, so I made Terry Hope Romero's Daikon Pickles from Vegan Eats World to go with it. Very crunchy and good. But I ended up throwing the leftovers out because daikon is super stinky, and the smell was grossing me out. Kind of like durian.

And finally, here's a little Sjaak's Peanut Butter Chocolate Christmas Tree that I ordered from Herbivore. I enjoyed this while watching Love Hard, a cheesy but super-cute Christmas movie.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Christmas on New Year's!

Christmas was a little weird this year. The winter storm that swept much of the country hit the South, and we were iced in for much of Christmas weekend. By Sunday (Christmas), the roads in Memphis were fine, but my parents live two and a half hours to the north in the Arkansas Ozarks. And their roads were not fine. So Paul and I opted to stay home and celebrate with our pets. 

But that meant my parents and I needed to reschedule Christmas. So on New Year's Day, I drove to their house, and we enjoyed New Year's dinner and opened our presents. When I got there, my mom was just finishing up our traditional good luck meal of Blackeyed Peas, Cornbread, Turnip Greens, Boiled Cabbage, Vegan Chicken & Dumplins, and Fried Potatoes. A perfect start to the year!

And then it was present time! Paul couldn't make it, but I brought his gifts back home with me. I got lots of running gear and running-related gifts, plus a Le Creuset kettle. All I do these days is run and eat and drink coffee/tea!

Paul and I had a personalized neon sign made for my parents' home bar!

And they both got liquor gifts and plenty more.

Maynard enjoyed his Christmas gingerbread dog treats.

After presents, my dad made me a Bloody Mary in a vintage Spuds McKenzie glass from the 1980s. Christmas Bloody Marys are a tradition for me and my dad.

On Monday morning, we had a big breakfast of Just Egg, Biscuits and Gravy, Vegan Sausage, and Hash Browns before I hit the road.